THE RIALTO THEATRE
NEEDS YOUR HELP.
The Historic Rialto Theatre may be in jeopardy.
Please read the opinion piece in Sunday's Arizona Daily Star (see below or click here http://www.azstarnet.com/opinion/296816.php)
On Tuesday, June 16, the Tucson City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposed Development Agreement that does not adequately protect the Rialto Theatre and the $2.26 million taxpayers have invested in the project.
As the Arizona Daily Star editorial in Sunday's paper states:
"The City Council must protect its asset. It must not approve any deal unless the Rialto Foundation's board of directors agrees that it is acceptable."As of last Wednesday, the developers abruptly terminated all communication with the non-profit Rialto Theatre Foundation in the middle of negotiations with board members, staff and Foundation attorneys. The Foundation had not come to an acceptable agreement with the owners of the Rialto Block, although the board, staff and attorneys had spent hundreds of hours in the last week and were approaching final agreement.
2) Directly contact the members of the Tucson City Council via phone or email and tell them that they need to ensure that the Rialto Theatre is protected in any development agreement and that it is imperative the Rialto Theatre Foundation agree to the terms.
Please consider doing one or more of the following:
1) Call the Mayor and Council Comment line ASAP at[masked] to voice your support for the Rialto Theatre in connection with the development agreement on Tuesday's City Council agenda.
Karin Uhlich,[masked], [address removed]PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO ANYONE YOU KNOW WHO VALUES THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE RIALTO THEATRE TO DOWNTOWN TUCSON AND SHARES THE LOVE OF MUSIC.
Regina Romero,[masked], [address removed]
Steve Leal,[masked], [address removed]
Shirley Scott,[masked], firstname.lastname@example.org
Nina Trasoff,[masked], [address removed]
Rodney Glassman,[masked], [address removed]
Mayor Walkup,[masked], [address removed]
3) Come to the City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 16 at 5:30 pm to show your support for the Rialto Theatre.
This 450-square-foot area next to the Rialto Theatre's entrance on East Congress Street is part of the 4,000 square feet that the Rialto's operating foundation says it needs in order to continue a successful operation. The space is owned by developers Scott Stiteler and
Don Martin. Photos by Mamta popat/arizona daily star
The reality of the Rialto
Rio Nuevo's success story must be protected in Downtown dealBy Jane See White
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published:[masked]
The Tucson City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a deal with Downtown developers that, if mishandled, could put the future of the Rialto Theatre at risk.
That would be a disaster for Tucson's efforts to revitalize its Downtown. The City Council must not ink a deal that threatens the publicly owned historic theater's viability.
After the developers and theater representatives exchanged sharp words at a City Council meeting two weeks ago, the council asked them come back Tuesday with an agreement. So far that hasn't been achieved.
The Rialto was purchased in 2004 for $1.54 million by the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District and is operated by a nonprofit foundation.
It is a proven economic engine for Downtown businesses and is Rio Nuevo's best achievement Downtown.
"We put on 130 shows a year, bring 90,000 people Downtown and bring in $100,000 in net revenue," said the theater's executive director, Doug Biggers.
If each one of those people spent $20 before or after a performance, that's $6 million pumped into Downtown restaurants, hotels and clubs.
The city pays no money to subsidize the theater.
But in order to continue its success, Biggers said the theater needs to improve its tiny restrooms and add a better concessions area.
That cannot be done unless the theater gains ownership of two storefront spaces that straddle its entry on East Congress Street.
The space to the left of the Rialto door as you face the theater is about 450 square feet. The other, on the right, is about 1,000 square feet and is filled with stacks of beverages, coolers and other items the theater needs to store.
Both spaces are owned by Don Martin and Scott Stiteler, the developers who own the rest of the Rialto Block and who are negotiating a Downtown development deal with the city.
Biggers said the Rialto also must have the 2,500-square-foot building behind the Rialto,[masked] E. Broadway, which Stiteler and Martin also own. The space has been renovated at a cost of about $60,000 by the foundation and is divided between offices, conference space and a green room for visiting performers.
Most of the paved area between the theater and the green-room building is owned by the theater, but Stiteler and Martin own a span about 10 feet deep on the building's north side. This is where bands bring in their buses and 18-wheelers carrying their gear.
"We are always going to need this," Biggers said. "This is the staging area forever."
Free use, no worries
How did it come to be that Rio Nuevo bought the Rialto, but not the two vacant storefront spaces flanking its entrance?Why wasn't the green-room building purchased?
"No one asked those questions," said Biggers, who owned the Rialto with three partners, lobbied for public ownership because of its historic importance to the community and sold it to Rio Nuevo. The storefront spaces weren't part of the theater's footprint.
"It never came up in the rush . . . to get the money, acquire the theater and get it up and running," Biggers said.
Also, he said, the owners of the Rialto block "said, 'Yeah you can use the back building. You can use the storefront for free.' It never was an issue."
Today Martin and Stiteler own the block, including the second floor space above the Rialto's lobby, which the theater does not use.
Martin and Stiteler are proposing a deal in which the city rewards them with land options for their investment in redeveloping the Rialto block and the 200 block of East Congress.
The proposal includes cash donations made by the developers to arts groups, Skrappy's youth club and the city's facade-improvement program.
A December predevelopment agreement with the city included a $1.5 million investment in the theater by the developers.
But the development proposal on the table says only that the developers will invest $5 million in the Rialto block, "including exterior improvements, creation of interior leasable premises, and improvements to premises utilized by the Rialto Theatre."
The Rialto Theatre Foundation's board of directors passed resolutions in May and June 7 saying it would support the development deal only if the store-fronts and building were conveyed to Rio Nuevo.
The board said the city's deal should compensate the developers for the space, perhaps in land options of equivalent value.
The foundation's board chairman, Michael Crawford, said failure to protect the theater should be "a deal breaker" for the City Council.
"The city needs to stand up and say, 'What's important in this deal? And not give them $4 million in property without conveying this 4,000 square feet that the Rialto requires," Crawford said
The Rialto's key to success, Biggers has said, has been risk management. It operates on earned income and some donations; any extra money is reinvested in the theater.
"It makes sense for the Rio Nuevo District to own the spaces that are necessary for the theater to operate," Biggers said.
So any arrangement with the developers that increases the Rialto's overhead costs - for example, rent expenses - might endanger this publicly owned venue's continued success
The City Council must protect its asset. It must not approve any deal unless the Rialto Foundation's board of directors agrees that it is acceptable.